Our Guide to
The Garden Route
Making the most out of the Garden Route.
The Garden Route is known as a botanical treasure, home to one of the worlds’ most concentrated floral kingdoms, a staggering diversity of plants uniquely adapted to this beautiful but sometimes harsh part of the world. It also hugs the coastline and offers overwhelmingly beautiful visions of land and sea.
Road tripping along the luscious garden route in South Africa is a national past time for most South Africans and a mandatory must-do for the visitors that flock to the country particularly in the warm summer months. Having the luxury of being based in both South Africa and Australia, Encompass Africa has shared some personal anecdotes on how to make the most of this seductive coastline.
Let The Journey Begin – Day One and Two
Although most people begin their Garden Route adventure in Cape Town the technical start of the Garden Route is Mossel Bay – about 5 hours from Cape Town. For those with a hunger for adrenalin, Mossel Bay is one of the few places in South Africa where you can go skydiving and shark cage diving. Obviously not at the same time, but we managed to do it one day after the next which was a magnificent way to start our Gardens Route journey. For those not wanting to challenge themselves that way and prefer a more intellectual kick, we highly recommend Merchant Coffee for a coffee break and then the opportunity to learn more about the biological & cultural evolution of mankind by visiting an intriguing local archeological site.
The Crown Jewel – Day Two and Three
Knysna is the central home of a beautiful stretch of indigenous and planted forest that was recently somewhat engulfed in flames in one of the largest bushfires in the country’s history. Thankfully for the forests inhabitants which include the rare Knysna elephant, the indigenous parts of the forest were more resilient and didn’t entirely burn down but the fire damage is still noticeable on arrival. That gloomy part of the recent history aside this glorious South Africa tourist town is fully equipped to cater for days and days of activities for all sorts of travellers. We suggest staying a night and partaking in a combination of the below:
Cheese & Wine pairing at Packwood Winery. One of my favourite wineries in the country, just a little outside of Knysna, there are unyieldingly majestic views that go hand in hand with A-class wine, cheese and warm decorum of this winery estate.
Catch a cruise out to the Knysna Heads. Undoubtedly the one must-do for everyone coming to Knysna, it’s beautiful looking back at the land from the heads and lagoon and some of our favourite trips then visit the Milkwood Forest where you walk and have lunch under the ancient trees.
Brenton Beach located near the Knysna Heads, is a popular and blue flag status beach and often eclipses the top position amongst couples visiting the area. Grab a picnic basket and head down over for an leisurely afternoon or see if Wilderness Picnics will deliver to your accommodation door.
Deep In the Forest – Day Four
As you might’ve noticed the Cape Town Encompass Africa crew have a daredevil streak so we’re going to suggest two options for day four, either a bungee at Storms River Bridge, the highest bridge jump in the world and 4th highest bungee jump in general.
If bungee isn’t your thing, this year we took part in Africanyon and it was perfectly suited to a wide variety of adventure enthusiasts, and completely achievable even for someone with an average level of fitness. Extremely fun and a beautiful way to experience the nooks and crannies and really unspoilt parts of this indigenous tsitsikamma forest – expect a bit of abseiling, ziplining, small cliff jumps and swimming through beautiful canyons in this experience.
Also as a final hint or tip, if you get a chance to check out “The Big Tree” it is near the storms river bridge and is a short 10 minute walk to possibly one of the largest and oldest tree’s you’ll ever see in your life. Keep a keen eye for signs as you near the petrol station at the storms river bridge.
That brings you to a total of 4 days, which in my experience is the perfect amount of time to spend in the garden route. Obviously some people linger longer because this region is full of charming guesthouse, wine farms and little sleepy towns we didn’t touch on yet have previously savoured – namely Sedgefield (a Wilson family tradition) and Natures Valley. The Farmers Markets are also fantastic in the area if we plan it in advance and you’re flexible with dates.
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What Is Fynbos ?
The Floral Empire Of The Garden Route
Fynbos which is Dutch for ‘fine leafed plant’, is one of the 6 floral kingdoms found on earth and is also the tiniest and most diverse. Found only along a 200 kilometre strip of coastline, these beautiful and tough botany is perfectly adapted for living in a climate of varying rain conditions.
The protea, the national flower of South Africa is found amongst the 9,000 plant species within fynbos of which 70% are endemic to just this region. This lush diversity makes the garden route have 3 times more plant species per KM than the Amazon rainforest and is one of the worlds 34 biodiversity hot spots. It has also been declared a UNESCO world heritage site since 2004.
For any plant enthusiast this flower kingdom is also where you’d find many of your favourite plants: gladioli, freesias, nerines, agapanthus, ixia, proteas, geraniums and pelargoniums to name a few.
Consider this a mini flora-safari, well equipped with wineries and some adventures sports along the way, and a part of the world that captures the heart of all that have the privilege to travel through it.
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Top Five in Garden Route
- Marine EcoTour out through the Knysna Heads with Oddysey Sea Adventures
- Africanyon kloofing adventure through the Tsitsikamma Forest
- The endless stretch of natural beauty from Mossel Bay onwards to Storms River
- Drinking wine from a vantage point at Packwood winery
- Soaring above the trees on an award winning canopy tour of the Tsitsikamma forest at Natures Valley
Garden Route Ready?
We’ve pinned some of the highlights along the garden route.
There really is so much on offer from museums, wildlife sanctuaries, beaches, forests, steam trains, vintage boating and more.Get in Touch